Internet Access Policy
The Illinois Library Association acknowledges that the Internet provides access to powerful and information-rich resources that expand the boundaries of knowledge. Together, information and access to that information constitute the twin pillars of democratic government and an informed citizenry. The Illinois Library Association supports the following principles regarding access to resources: free and unfettered access to information is crucial to an informed citizenry; all federal and state constitutional provisions related to First Amendment freedom; and rights of individuals to privacy in their use of electronic information resources.
The Illinois Library Association notes that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844, 117 S.Ct. 2329, 138 L.Ed.2d 874 (1997), states that attempts to limit access to the Internet in the name of protecting citizens are unconstitutional. The Illinois Library Association supports the right of parents and legal guardians to guide the development of their children and to select those resources that they deem suitable for their own children. ILA asserts that Internet policy is appropriately developed at the level of the local library rather than the state or federal level.
Passed by the ILA Executive Board, February 25, 2000.
Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment
At the request of the ILA Public Policy Committee, the ILA Quick Response Team determined in May 2003 to endorse the ratification of the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) by the Illinois General Assembly and requested the Illinois library community to contact their elected officials to ask them to support ratification of ERA.
Service to Homeless Populations in Illinois
While affirming the right of access to information for all, the Illinois Library Association and its members believe library policy regarding services to homeless populations is best established at the local level. The following guidelines are offered in support of developing local policies that are in accordance with state and federal laws, provide maximum access to information to individuals seeking library services, and protect the collective interests of the community as a whole, represented by the library board.
In addition to ensuring the rights of patrons, both homeless and not, libraries are in the business of offering resources to their community that provide opportunity to those most in need. To deny access to information on the basis of economic or social disadvantage is to participate in perpetuating that disadvantage. At the same time, policies that protect everyone’s access to that information are an essential part of ensuring continued support and existence of library resources.
Legal precedent has held that public libraries, as places set aside by the government for the public's receipt of information and services, are designated public forums subject to the First Amendment. As such, individuals possess a right to access the public library that is protected by the First Amendment. (Kreimer v. Bureau of Police, 958 F.2d 1242, 1259 (3d Cir. 1992).
Courts have struck down a number of library policies that effectively allowed library employees to deny access to the homeless because of individuals' appearance or personal hygiene. In general, rules that permit library employees to make discriminatory decisions regarding a user’s right to access the library do not survive court review, especially if the rule appears to target a particular class of users. (See Kreimer, above; see also Armstrong v. D.C. Public Library, 154 F.Supp. 2d 67, 75 (D.D.C. 2001).
Following a 2006 case filed by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the Worcester Public Library, a policy was developed that added options to the library's practice of requiring proof of residency, such as:
(1) Letter from social service agency or temporary employer providing proof of residency within the past thirty days.
(2) Returned postcard mailed to an individual at a given address; when it is returned to the library by the individual, establishing that they receive mail at that address, they are allowed to apply for and receive a library card. There is an additional provision that the address needs to be verified orally every three months. Massachusetts does not accept a post office box or business address for this purpose.
An article in Public Libraries, May/June 2012, "Library Service to the Homeless," offers guidelines to developing legally acceptable practices and ethical policies. ILA suggests developing a policy checklist that includes:
- Accordance with the First Amendment
- Equality and consistency of policies and enforcement
- Clear and open statement of policies
- Regular review and appeals process
Cooperation with social service agencies in the community to provide alternatives to conventional proof of residency and other practical, constructive means to provide access.
Passed by the ILA Executive Board, June 15, 2012.
Compliance with Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act
Emergency Release of Information Identifying Individuals Pursuant to Public Act 95-0040
The Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act requires a court order before a library may publicly release information contained in library registration or circulation records. Public Act 95-0040 created an exception to the requirement for a court order if ALL of the following conditions are met:
1) The information is requested by a sworn law enforcement officer who states that it is impractical to get a court order as a result of an emergency situation;
2) The law enforcement officer states that there is probable cause to believe that there is imminent danger that someone will be physically harmed;
3) The information requested is limited to only identifying a suspect, witness, or victim of a crime; and
4) The information does not include any registration or circulation records that would indicate materials borrowed, resources reviewed, or services used at the library.
Public Act 95-0040 also provides that “if requested to do so by the library, the requesting law enforcement officer must sign a form acknowledging the receipt of the information. A library providing the information may seek subsequent judicial review to assess compliance with this Section.”
A suggested Statement of Compliance follows. ILA urges the Illinois library community to incorporate this information and form in their library procedures, to use this form when appropriate, to instruct all staff to follow the law, and to value and safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of library records.
Officer’s Request for Confidential Library Information
A. This is a request under the Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act, 75 ILCS 70/1 (copy attached) for information contained in the library’s registration and/or circulation records.
B. My request for information is limited to identifying a “suspect, witness, or victim of a crime.”
C. As the basis for this request, I represent the following:
- I am a sworn law enforcement officer.
- As a result of an emergency where I believe there is imminent danger of physical harm, it is impractical to secure a Court Order for the identification information.
D. The information I request relates to the following: (Description of information sought)
__________________________________ Officer’s printed name
__________________________________ Officer’s signature
__________________________________ Officer’s badge number
__________________________________ Officer’s Agency/Department
__________________________________ Date signed
__________________________________ Time signed
I acknowledge receipt from the library of the information I requested.
_________________________ Officer’s signature
_________________________ Date signed
(LIBRARY USE ONLY)
Name(s) of Library Staff assisting with the information requested: